ADHD meltdowns are sudden outbursts of frustration and anger that seem to come out of nowhere. If your child is struggling to control their emotions, there are ways to help them.

For children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), impulsivity can present in many ways.

They can climb on things and jump off. Run or dash around in dangerous or inappropriate situations.

Kids with ADHD can also have tantrums or meltdowns. These meltdowns can be extreme and often involve crying, yelling, and fits of anger.

When a child has a meltdown, parents may feel overwhelmed and not know what to do. Don’t panic.

There are some ways you can help your child.

Tantrums, or meltdowns, are sudden outbursts of frustration and anger. Aggressive behavior and rageful outbursts are common among children with ADHD, even though these behaviors are not formally part of the diagnostic criteria.

There are many reasons why kids with ADHD have meltdowns. They have difficulty managing impulses, so it may be difficult for them to delay their needs or to hear the word “later.”

They’ve yet to learn how to handle these emotions and express them appropriately because they’re kids.

When a child has a meltdown, especially in public, some parents don’t know how to respond. Some parents react with one extreme or another, from placating their child and giving in to their wants or getting angry and yelling or punishing them.

While it may seem impossible, you can navigate the rocky road of ADHD meltdowns.

How can you comfort your child who is having an outburst? Here are nine strategies.

Find the trigger

Look at what might be activating your child’s behaviors.

Knowing what activates your child’s meltdowns can help you diffuse the situation quickly. Is your child hungry? Are they tired? Once you pinpoint the underlying problem, try to solve it.

This also is a good tool for preventing meltdowns.

Explain consequences in advance

Before a meltdown begins, talk with your child about the negative consequences of their behaviors. Be specific when you tell your child what to expect.

Don’t say vague statements like: “If you don’t play nicely, you’ll lose your toys.”

Instead, say something like: “If you throw that truck again, then I’m going to take it away.”

Before following through with the consequence, give your a child a warning. Using “If-Then” statements, like the one above, are good ways to warn your child that their behavior needs to change.

Use warnings only if you’re going to follow through with the consequences.

This may not work for all children, but having a plan your child understands will help.

Talk to your child and encourage them to talk back

Talk calmly and quietly to your child, and acknowledge their feelings. Let the child know that you you care and you will try to understand what they’re going through. Doing this will help your child feel heard.

Get down on your child’s level and make eye contact. In a calm voice, say to your child, “I know you’re disappointed that you didn’t get the toy you wanted.”

Then, encourage your child to express their feelings. Ask them to rate their anger or disappointment on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.

This will give you an idea of the problem’s seriousness without asking them to go through the emotion again.

Distract your child

For younger kids, distraction may work. Interrupting the behavior redirects your child’s attention to something else.

If your child’s misbehaving at a restaurant, give them crayons or a small game to distract them.

Distractions are a good tool to use if you plan how to handle situations that can cause a meltdown.

Give them a time-out

Sometimes, no matter what you try, nothing seems to work to stop the meltdown.

A time-out may be a good tool to use. Time-out strategies are helpful at reducing negative behaviors in children with ADHD.

Calmly explain to the child that they’ll get a time-out if the behavior continues. Also tell them the time-out will end after their behavior changes.

Before using a time-out, explain to your child what behaviors will lead to time-outs, where the time-outs will happen, and how time-outs will be used.

When creating a time-out space, remove your child’s favorite things. Make sure the area is away from distractions, like the TV or games.

Set up space ahead of time so that it will be ready when you need to use it.

Ignore the meltdown

If you give the meltdown attention, even negative attention like screaming or yelling, you may be reinforcing the child’s misbehavior. Not giving your child an audience may help cut down on how long the meltdown lasts.

Remember that children love attention, and meltdowns are a good way to get your attention.

Ignoring the meltdown can stop your child’s behavior and make it less likely they’ll behave that way again.

Give reminders

Kids with ADHD have a hard time with transitions. If they have to suddenly leave the playground or stop playing with their toy to come to dinner, this might lead to a meltdown.

This is when reminders are key. Reminding your child at 30-, 15-, and 5-minute intervals that it’s almost time for dinner can help to cut down on meltdowns.

Also, use negative consequences if they don’t comply. Use “If-Then” statements like: “If you don’t put down the truck and come to dinner, then you will not be able to play with it after dinner.”

Reminders can help prevent a meltdown.

Reward your child for positive behavior

Kids with ADHD respond well to positive reinforcement or rewards.

Behavioral therapy, one of the therapeutic interventions used for ADHD, encourages positive consequences to reinforce positive behaviors.

A 2014 review found that using rewards in school-aged children with ADHD encourages good behavior and reduces negative behavior.

Rewards can include social (affection and praise) and material (toys, candy, or other material things). Material rewards can be used in combination with social rewards.

When using a reward system, plan what behaviors will be rewarded and clearly communicate them with your child.

Creating a behavior chart that explains the reward system and placing it where your child can see it is a good way to let your child know what to expect.

Ask for help

If your child’s meltdowns are happening often, don’t wait until you’re at your wits’ end to seek help.

There may be more going on that’s causing your child’s meltdowns. ADHD often occurs with a number of coexisting conditions. In fact, about 60 percent of people with ADHD have at least one other coexisting condition.

Your child’s doctor can help determine if there’s an underlying reason for your child’s meltdowns. Because ADHD is associated with academic and social impairments, experts recommend seeking treatment with a healthcare professional who specializes in behavioral treatment for ADHD.

Handling ADHD meltdowns is difficult. When a meltdown begins, it’s not uncommon for parents to become flustered and not know what to do.

Planning, staying calm, and applying strategies can help you de-escalate meltdowns.

Remember, every child is different. What may work for one child may not work for another.

It may take some trial and error to find which strategies work best. Don’t give up. The results will be worth it.